Does Language Belong in Diversity & Inclusion Programs?

Diverse group of handsDiversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are all about harnessing the unique strengths and abilities of a varied workforce for stronger performance. However, the path to a sustainable, diverse organization isn’t always clear.

Often times the idea of diversity is thrown around without much regard for the “how” to make it work. The response typically seems to be, “Yes, it’s a nice theory, but how do we really do it?”

When you can make the diversity initiative “real” for employees, they will take it seriously and work to make it a reality. Among the various avenues a company can pursue in the area of D&I, language initiatives can play a key role in making diversity initiatives “real” for employees.

Making Language a Diversity Issue

The hospitality industry in general is one known for a highly diverse workforce and customer base. The best organizations in the space have learned to embrace the cultural differences and leverage them for success.

Consider for a moment the various employee groups working side-by-side in the hospitality industry. Within a single facility there could be half a dozen or more languages being spoken regularly. The obvious challenge is to determine how to be inclusive of those varied groups of individuals.

We can take a lesson from Interstate Hotels & Resorts and look at how they have encouraged staff members to learn the basic fundamentals of the languages that their coworkers and customers speak.

“Rosetta Stone has enabled Interstate to literally talk the talk with regard to one of our core values, ‘Embrace others’ differences with respect.’” Bruce Barishman, Interstate Hotels & Resorts.

That is a highly personal, and impactful, method for implementing a diversity program. The investment of time and resources to learn another person’s language says more to them about the company’s dedication to D&I than any number of short-lived programs that fizzle out over time.

One of the great ancillary benefits of these initiatives is increased customer satisfaction. Employees who learn to accept and embrace the differences of the people they work with will, by extension, treat customers in the same way.

Has your own organization ever pursued a strategic D&I program? Was language learning incorporated into the process? Why or why not?

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